Earth, art and bubblers, West coast photo blog 2

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood, seen coming in to Portland.

OK, so here’s just a few images from the plane ride out to Oregon. And a few more pictures of earthly delights we saw on our trip.

Mt. Hood, one of the Cascade’s finest, is one big ghost. We saw it from the plane and we saw it when driving south on I-5 to Eugene. We never did see Mt. St. Helens, although it, too, is nearby.

Grand Canyon
Coming in to Las Vegas we were over the Grand Canyon.

I love how the topography changes as you zoom above the country. The desert colors — ochres, siennas, everything bleached and earthy — are so different from what comes before. You “get” the geography lesson here by simply paying attention and looking out the window. The shot here is not really the Grand Canyon as we know it from those car commercials and other closer scenes. But at this level you see the vastness of the land’s upheaval and can almost imagine the making of it as rivers carved out the rock canyons.

Monkey tree
Monkey tree, one of some 400 varieties of trees on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.

We toured the school on a Saturday and so couldn’t get in to see the insides of the buildings but the stroll around was great. This is a school so old it predates the state of Oregon! Our tour guide, Sam, told us the Monkey tree, or Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria arauconi) was his favorite of all the varieties on the arboretum-like campus. I’ve never seen one before but I’ll second that.

Wilamette River looking north
Willamette River looking north.

Portland is a city with two rivers, the Columbia, a deep river with ocean-going vessels (Portland is a major port), and the Willamette, seen here. The city is nice and liveable. Public transit takes you everywhere. We rode the light rail, MAX, from the airport to a block from our hotel. $1.80 was the ticket, good on all transit for a 2-hour period. And it’s honor system. Nobody checked our tickets. Portland also has a forest in the city limits–it’s called Forest Park and it’s a 20-minute ride from downtown. We took MAX up to it and then hiked around for an hour on the steep shady trails. On a Monday afternoon, we saw several runners and a bunch of dog-walkers. Most of the trees are pine trees. Lots of tall ferns at foot level and everything was very dry. (the park’s at elevation 7,000 ft. The train goes through the mountain and you take an elevator up to the park.)

Mt. Ranier
Mt. Ranier

Like Mt. Hood, Mt. Ranier looks like a ghost and appears around the bends in the road between Seattle and Portland. (Of course it appears elsewhere but that’s all we saw.) We were told that the mountain is visible about 90 days out of the year.

Barnett Newman, Broken Obelisk
Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk

Here begins a few pictures of the man-made visions we saw. How can art compete with a mountain or a river? It can’t. But sometimes art in an urban setting can be an unexpected delight just like those mountains. Newman’s sculpture is sited on “Red Square” (so-called for the red bricks it’s paved with) in the heart of the University of Washington campus. A few years back, Broken Obelisk was on the plaza outside the PMA as part of the Newman retrospective. I thought it was a oner. But I guess when you’re making a bronze sculpture it makes sense to edition it.

Alexander Liberman’s Olympic Iliad at the Seattle Center.

The Liberman piece was installed in 1984 and I found 360 degree tour of the piece on the Seattle Center website. Scroll down, it’s on the right. Click the view button then mouse over the image to move around. It’s a little vertiginous and nauseating but fun.

We have a Liberman sculpture,
Covenant, 1974, on the University of Pennsylvania campus. I just read this morning that students refer to the piece as the dueling tampons, something I never heard, and I’ve lived here more than 20 years, married to a Penn faculty member. I wonder if he knows about the nickname…maybe not. Probably Mr. Liberman knows. That kind of information would get back to him I think.

Elephant, Portland
Elephant on elephant statue, Portland.

Portland is full of public parks, and it’s also full of public art. Mostly the art is visual clutter and doesn’t do anything for you. But this bronze statue, in North Park Blocks near the amazing Powells Books is terrific. And the story about it is even better. A Chinese foundry owner up and donated the piece to the city in 2002. Called Da Tung (Universal Peace) it has figures from ancient Chinese mythology on its sides. Here’s more: “…The elephant carries a baby elephant, Xiang bao bao (Baby Elephant), symbolizing that offspring shall be safe and prosperous. The statue was a gift to the city from Chinese businessman Huo Baozhu, whose foundry in Xi’an, China, is licensed by the national government to reproduce Chinese antiquities. Huo, who visited Portland a number of times, said he was motivated by a love of Chinese history and admiration for Portland.” Read more on the statue from an official Portland website.

City of Bubblers, Portland
Beautiful bubbler bubbling. These four-person drinking fountains are all over Portland.

In Milwaukee we call the public drinking fountains bubblers. I never saw anyone but Steve drinking from the Portland bubblers but I love that they’re a public service available to thirsty citizens.

So that’s about it for the moment. I’ll try to post one more little one this weekend. I’m between washing clothes and grocery shopping and writing a magazine piece that’s due next Wednesday. Yikes.